November 4, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. Case No. 15 cv 8032 -
Sharon Johnson Coleman, Judge.
Flaum and Kanne, Circuit Judges, and MAGNUS-Stinson, District
Dobbs hired Appellees George McLaughlin, John Gehlhausen, and
Anthony Argeros as his attorneys on a contingency fee basis.
Appellees filed Dobbs's product-liability claim against
DePuy Orthopedics in the DePuy ASR Hip Implant Multidistrict
Litigation in the Northern District of Ohio. DePuy
subsequently offered to settle all claims in that litigation.
advice and pressure from McLaughlin, Dobbs refused to settle
and discharged Appellees. Later, Dobbs changed his mind and
decided to accept the settlement offer. Because the
employment contract was inoperative when Dobbs settled,
Appellees sought compensation under a quantum meruit
theory. The district court awarded attorneys' fees in the
full amount of the original contract. Dobbs argues that the
district court abused its discretion by not analyzing the
factors that Illinois courts look to when calculating
reasonable attorneys' fees under quantum meruit.
replaced Dobbs's left hip with a DePuy ASR artificial
hip. Unfortunately, the ASR model was defective. And those
defects caused Dobbs pain and other hip problems. Roughly
four years after the surgery, Dobbs hired Appellees to
represent him in a product-liability suit against DePuy.
Appellees took the case on a 35 percent contingency fee.
filed Dobbs's complaint in the DePuy ASR Hip Implant
Multidistrict Litigation in the Northern District of Ohio. A
year later, DePuy proposed a "Global Settlement" in
that litigation. DePuy offered represented parties $250, 000
and unrepresented parties $165, 000.
advised Dobbs to accept the settlement offer because going to
trial would be expensive, time consuming, and risky. Dobbs
told McLaughlin that he wanted to register for the settlement
but that he did not want to "agree with the settlement
offer, " "waive any rights to a trial, " or
"be forced to accept the present settlement offer from
DePuy." (R. 32-1 at 8.) Despite McLaughlin's
continued insistence that Dobbs's best option was to take
the settlement, Dobbs decided that the base award did not
properly compensate him for his injuries. Dobbs became
frustrated with McLaughlin, believing that McLaughlin was
trying to force him to settle his case when he wanted to take
it to trial.
then filed a motion to remove McLaughlin as his attorney on
October 17, 2014. McLaughlin acknowledged that he no longer
represented Dobbs and moved to withdraw as counsel on
December 30, 2014. Acting pro se, Dobbs ultimately
chose to accept the settlement offer on February 5, 2015. But
because he was considered "represented" for
purposes of the settlement offer, Dobbs received $250, 000.
Dobbs terminated the contract before he accepted the
settlement offer, Appellees could not recover the contingency
fee. McLaughlin then asserted a lien on the award and sought
attorneys' fees under a quantum meruit theory.
Judge Katz in the Northern District of Ohio ordered mediation
and personally mediated the negotiations. When the parties
could not resolve the dispute, Judge Katz transferred the
case to the Northern District of Illinois. There, Judge
Coleman held that the full contingency fee was a reasonable
award under quantum meruit. Dobbs now appeals that
review a district court's award of attorneys' fees
for an abuse of discretion. Goesel v. Boley Int'l
(U.K.) Ltd.,806 F.3d 414, 419 (7th Cir. 2015);
Gautreaux v. Chi. Hous. Auth.,491 F.3d 649, 654
(7th Cir. 2007). We have described that standard of review as
"highly deferential" because the district court is
in the best position to determine the reasonableness of an
award for work done on litigation in that court. Montanez
v. Simon,755 F.3d 547, 552-53 (7th Cir. 2014);
Gautreaux, 491 F.3d at 659. Highly deferential
review, however, does not give the district court unfettered